From "American armies and battlefields in Europe", Center of Military History United States Army. 1938.
During the last days of May 1918 a powerful German offensive had broken through the Chemin des Dames front and German troops were advancing rapidly toward the Marne River. The Allied situation was critical and reserves from all parts of the Western Front were promptly rushed to this region.
Among the troops hurriedly moved here was the American 2d Division, which included one brigade of marines. Arriving on June 1, it was assigned a battle position with its center near this point.
All available men immediately began digging trenches and otherwise preparing for defense, the Germans at the time being delayed by French detachments in positions on the near slopes of the line of hills seen in the distance approximately 2 miles away to the right front.
The front line organized by the division ran around the wood seen on top of the hill about 600 yards to the left front, included this point, and continued on to the right rear passing around the buildings of Triangle, seen on the hillside a mile away in that direction. It then crossed the main highway which the tour has been following from Paris, thus blocking the direct road to that important place.
Small advance groups of the enemy came in contact with that section of the American line near Triangle on June 2 and during the next day a determined assault against the left of the 2d Division position was repulsed with heavy losses.
On June 4 the entire front line of the division was engaged and on that day the advance of the German forces in this region was definitely stopped.
The German High Command, upon hearing of the presence of American troops on this important battle front, directed that they be denied any success whatsoever and that as much damage as possible be inflicted upon them. Consequently, as the Americans were determined to regain certain strong points which the Germans had captured, the fighting near here was very bitter and the casualties on both sides were out of all proportion to the amount of ground which finally changed hands.
During the morning of June 6, the first of the many 2d Division attacks in this vicinity was launched from its line on the far side of the wood to the left front. This attack, made in conjunction with the French, resulted in a gain of about 1/2mile. That afternoon a powerful assault against Belleau Wood was made from here and succeeded in obtaining a foothold in that part of the wood seen to the right.
While advancing across the open fields to the right front, heavy casualties were suffered. During the course of the attack the village of Bouresches to the right at the foot of this hill, but not visible, was captured and held in spite of five determined attempts made by the Germans during the next few days to recapture it.
Belleau Wood, which is shaped somewhat like a distorted hour glass, with the lower or southern section to the right of here and the larger upper or northern section to the observer's right front, was the scene of prolonged and bitter struggles in which the 7th Infantry of the 3d Division and engineer troops of the 2d Division, acting as infantry, assisted for a brief period before its capture was finally completed many days later.
Severe fighting took place in the southern part of Belleau Wood on June 7 and 8, but all efforts to advance resulted in only minor gains. The wood was abandoned on the 9th to permit the artillery to concentrate its fire on the German positions there without endangering American troops, and on the 10th a determined attack was launched against the wood from the line to the right of here.
This regained the positions previously held but in spite of every effort the troops were unable to progress farther. Consequently, on June 11 another attack against the entire wood was launched from near here in the direction of the observer's right front. The assaulting units entered the northern part of the wood and took the enemy in the flank and rear. This resulted in many captures and hand-to-hand combats.
Elements of the attacking force reached the far edge of the wood where they themselves were attacked in the rear. The fighting continued violently throughout the day, the Germans making two organized counter-attacks by fresh battalions. That night no part of the northern section of the wood was retained, although the southern section, to the right of here, was for the first time entirely occupied.
On June 12 the northern section of the wood was again attacked and about one third of it taken. From that day on the fighting in it was fierce and furious. Counterattacks followed attacks as each side, determined not to yield an inch, stubbornly defended its positions. The casualties were heavy as the artillery executed prolonged bombardments and the machine guns took their toll. In the end, however, the determination of the Americans prevailed and Belleau Wood, after a bitter struggle on June 25, was definitely cleared of the enemy.
On July 1, following a terrific 24-hour bombardment, the town of Vaux, to the right rear from here beyond the large wood in the distance, was captured by the infantry and engineers of the 2d Division in a perfectly executed attack, with but few losses to themselves.
During the fighting on June 6 to the left front, Gunnery Sergeant Charles F. Hoffman, Marine Corps,2d Division,performed the feat for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery given by the American Government. Immediately after his company had reached its objective, several hostile counterattacks were launched against it. Sergeant Hoffman was attempting to organize the new position when he saw 12 of the enemy, armed with five light machine guns, crawling toward his group. Giving the alarm, he rushed the hostile detachment, bayoneted the two leaders, and forced the others to flee, abandoning their guns. His quick action, initiative and courage drove the enemy from a place where they could have swept the hill with machine-gun fire and forced the withdrawal of his company.
The splendid conduct of the 2d Division in fighting the enemy to a standstill on this front, in spite of a casualty list of approximately 8,100 officers and men, was widely and enthusiastically proclaimed by the French Army and the people of France.
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